Pubdate: Mon, 11 Jun 2007
Source: Times and Democrat, The (SC)
Copyright: 2007, The Times and Democrat
Author: Dionne Gleaton
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Youth)


BAMBERG - Bamberg County Deputy Adrienne Blume scoffs at criticism 
that a 24-year-old drug abuse prevention program doesn't produce 
effective results.

She has put too much time and effort - 17 years, to be exact - into 
teaching the smallest kindergarten students to the biggest fifth 
graders about the dangers of inhaling household products, smoking 
marijuana and, most recently, bullying.

Yes, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program has come under fire 
for a so-called flowery approach to drug prevention, lecturing kids 
without adhering to a research-based curriculum characteristic of 
stronger, evidence-based programs that produce real results.

Blume said the D.A.R.E. program has nonetheless given kids a better 
understanding of what law enforcement and has even helped a couple of 
children's parents seek help for cocaine addiction.

With a beaming smile and a heart of gold, the 46-year-old talks 
proudly about what she said is all the evidence she needs to 
determine her work is not in vain.

"To those who say that the D.A.R.E. program does not work and is a 
waste of time, I challenge them to talk with these young people. They 
have a law enforcement officer that they know on a named basis that 
they can come to if they need help," Blume said.

"I've had some of my former students ages 27 and 28 out of that first 
class that have come to me and told me, 'You know, Ms. Blume, I 
decided to stay in school and am now a teacher because of you,' or, 
'I'm going to be lawyer, doctor or helping in the communities,'" Blume said.

Blume, who was the 1997-1998 D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year, also 
received the 2004-2005 South Carolina D.A.R.E. Association 
President's Award, and the Bamberg County Sheriff's Office received 
the D.A.R.E. Agency of the Year award in 2004.

The state Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services had 
previously funded the D.A.R.E. program, including the work Blume said 
was done in helping the program procure grants, purchase workbooks 
and train new D.A.R.E. officers.

Kandie Goodwin, director of prevention services for the Tri-County 
Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse, said it is now mostly handled 
through the school districts.

"We sometime help out with supplies," Goodwin said.

Blume serves both Bamberg School District 1 (Bamberg-Ehrhardt) and 
Bamberg School District 2 (Denmark-Olar). While Bamberg County pays 
her salary as a full-time deputy sheriff, she said money for 
t-shirts, work books and plaques comes from anonymous donations and 
those from local businesses, including NIBCO Inc., Phoenix Speciality 
and Tobul Accumulator.

"Of course, when I'm in the schools, each school helps out if I need 
things copied and that type of thing. Bamberg School District 1 
helped purchase some workbooks through their Drug-Free Schools 
grants, so it's a group effort," Blume said.

DAODAS Public Information Coordinator Jimmy Mount said the federal 
government's shift in funding for what they called evidence-based 
programs made it impossible to continue funding for the D.A.R.E. program.

"These are programs where a panel of folks in Washington review the 
curriculum and is able to review data outcomes. They ask, 'Do these 
programs have actual bonafide data that shows how effective they 
are?' Currently, D.A.R.E. doesn't fall into that program," Mount said.

"The federal government put emphasis on certain guidelines that we 
have to follow. It's made us have to reflect our funding toward 
evidence-based programs and, at the same time, we've had budget cuts.

"So, we have less money to go around and new restrictions as to where 
it should go. While we certainly still applaud the work that the 
D.A.R.E. officers are doing, we have found other ways that do fall 
into that sort of evidence-based area to partner with law 
enforcement," he said.

With community support, Blume said she has been able to conduct 
visitation lessons with four-year-old kindergarten to fourth grade 
classes in the two school districts. Eleven lessons are also taught 
to fifth grade students, who graduate from the program in May.

Conflict resolution, the dangers of sniffing inhalants, abusing 
prescription drugs and smoking tobacco products and marijuana and, 
most recently, bullying are among the lessons on which kids are taught.

Kids are also engaged in essay competitions and also develop skits 
which are also included in a competition. Skits range from students 
depicting the use of the "cold-shoulder" technique when approached by 
friends with illegal drugs to more elaborate presentations such as 
the use of a D.A.R.E. Machine.

"There were a couple of people pretending to be gang members. They 
were rude and had ot respect for anybody, including themselves. They 
then went into the D.A.R.E. Machine and were respectful, trustworthy 
when they came out," said Blume, noting that newer bullying lessons 
address how to recognize and deal with what has become a growing 
nationwide problem.

"They think that bullying is only when somebody is picking on them 
verbally, or maybe shoving them. But they're also taught that it's 
the looks. It's leaving people out," said Blume, who usually starts 
the D.A.R.E. program in September of each school year.

"Usually around the third week in January is when I have a graduation 
for those classes I've started in September. Then I'll look at 
starting my next group usually by the end of January and graduating 
them in May," said Blume, who said she appreciates the hugs she gets 
from kindergarteners and social barriers she breaks down among older 
elementary-school children.

"You got a lot of kids that have a wall, or are carrying a lot of 
baggage. We give them better, more reliable tools where they can 
solve their problems," said Blume, noting that children are also 
taught techniques which advertisers use to lure them into alcohol and 
tobacco use.

She said she is dedicated to the program which she said is evolving 
to meet the needs of a changing world.

"I give up a lot of my own weekends, but I don't complain," she said.

"I'm a certified mentor, which means I train other D.A.R.E. officers. 
I'm certified with the elementary and middle school programs and with 
the parenting program. We're getting ready to revamp that within the 
next six months, modernizing it for what is needed out there now. The 
D.A.R.E. program is my passion. If I didn't think it was effective, I 
wouldn't be involved with it," Blume said.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman